Commentary: End the High-Stakes Testing Sham

(Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was published by U.S. News & World Report on September 15.)


By Daniel Koretz, Opinion Contributor

Fall is here, and kids are back in school. If you are a parent, you know what this means: testing, testing and more testing. Not just end-of-the-year tests used for accountability, but tests all year long to "prepare" for them. And time spent taking tests is just the tip of the iceberg: In many schools, preparation for these tests eats up far more time than testing does. In fact, in some schools, test prep is the curriculum.

This has been the way American schools have been run for years. We’ve been promised that this boring and stressful regimen will improve schools, lead kids to learn more and close the gap between low-achieving and high-achieving students.

It hasn’t. This approach has been a failure. It has produced only limited improvements, and these are far outweighed by the damage it has done...

read more

New CAASPP Test Results Show Little Change in Academic Performance

October 2, 2017

On September 27, the California Department of Education released the 2017 scores for the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English language arts and mathematics remained steady and retained the strong gains students made in 2016.

This is the third year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, just as they will need to do in college and 21st century careers.

Torlakson said he was pleased that students maintained the progress they have made since the initial year of testing and urged students, teachers, and parents to continue to aim high...

read more

Ed Trust–West, CTA Respond to CAASPP Test Results

October 2, 2017

Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, an advocacy group based in Oakland, said:

"The California Department of Education has released new state test results, providing a snapshot of how schools and districts are doing. This marked the third year of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the seventh year since the state adopted the Common Core standards. Across the board, improvement has slowed – in some places to a trickle. Fewer than half of all students met standards in English language arts – and in fifth grade English language arts, scores even declined. Math scores show minimal improvement over last year, but progress has slowed and achievement gaps across ethnic groups persist. Three-fourths of Latino students are not meeting standards in math, and more than two-thirds of African American students are not meeting standards in ELA or math. Even more troublingly, gaps for English learners appear to be widening in both math and English language arts...

read more

Collaboration Offers Path to Keeping Low-Income Students and Students of Color in STEM Classes

September 18, 2017

Nationally, only about 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in STEM end up graduating with a STEM degree. Students of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and those who are first-generation college students complete degrees at even lower rates, despite their increasing representation in higher education.

To target these challenges, a project at California State University had campuses redesign introductory math and science courses and implement a summer bridge program and a first-year experience, tying all three interventions together to create a seamless experience for students.

Campuses that successfully collaborated and integrated the interventions saw improvements in STEM retention and overall retention, as well as improvements in affective outcomes such as engagement and sense of belonging, according to a new study from USC Rossier...

read more

September Birthday May Mean Edge in School

By Julie Deardorff, Northwestern University - Rep: September 18, 2017

Children who start school at an older age do better than their younger classmates, an advantage that extends through college, according to a new working paper co-authored by Northwestern University economist David Figlio, National Public Radio (NPR) reported.

“Many parents already delay enrolling their children in school, believing they’ll do better if they’re a bit older,” Figlio told NPR reporter John Ydstie. “It’s sort of ‘academic redshirting,’” he said, referring to recruits in college athletics who are held out of games for a year.

Using Florida birth and education data, researchers compared the performance of August- and September-born children in the same families...

read more

California K-12 Curriculum Becomes More Historically Accurate with Help from UC Davis

By Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis - Rep: September 5, 2017

For generations, it was a rite of passage for 9-year-olds from San Diego to Eureka to craft popsicle-stick and sugar-cube models of a specific California mission. But, the fourth-grade “mission project” is disappearing from many classrooms, as the curriculum that students learn moves into a more accurate history reflecting all cultures.

UC Davis and the California History-Social Science Framework

Nancy McTygue, executive director of the California History-Social Science Project, co-chaired the Instructional Quality Commission’s History-Social Science committee with former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig. They were joined by Beth Slutsky and Shennan Hutton, who both serve as CHSSP coordinators, in writing the original framework. They edited drafts from a team of writers across the state, and responded to thousands of individual public comments on the draft. The framework was adopted in 2016...

read more

Transforming High School Through Self-Directed Learning

By Kerry McDonald, Education Next - Rep: September 5, 2017

Running an innovative, technology-inspired after school program for city kids near Boston wasn’t enough for Alec Resnick. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and entrepreneur knew that to make a sustained impact in the learning lives of young people he needed more connection than a few hours each week. His goal was simple: blur the lines between schooling and learning by putting young people in charge of their education, with facilitators and resources available to guide and assist. In 2016, he and his team won a grant to do just that.

Resnick’s non-profit, sprout & co., in collaboration with the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, won a $10 million cash grant from XQ Super School Project, an organization focused on transforming high school education, whose board of directors is led by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs. The plan was for Resnick and his team, with encouragement from local mayor, Joseph Curtatone, to create a new public (non-charter) high school in this city just outside of Boston...

read more

CDE Postpones Release of CAASPP Statewide Test Results

September 5, 2017

The California Department of Education (CDE) abruptly announced on August 25 that the release of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test results for 2017 – originally scheduled for August 29 – would be postponed, so the CDE could “address a recently identified data issue.”

The problem, according to some news reports, involves special education students whose test scores were identified with a different district than the district in which they had taken the test. The glitch was spotted when the CDE sent the test results to districts (as a “preview period” to prepare for the public release of the test results), and districts started calling the CDE with questions and concerns.

A rescheduled release date – not yet identified, but probably during the first two weeks of September – is expected to be announced soon.

read more

State PTA Applauds New Guidelines to Improve Services for Students with Dyslexia

September 5, 2017

New guidelines were released by the California Department of Education in late August to assist teachers and parents in identifying students with dyslexia and to plan, provide, evaluate and improve education services. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

California State PTA President Dianna MacDonald said, “California State PTA is pleased State Superintendent Torlakson has released groundbreaking guidelines to assist an estimated 20 percent of the general population representing more than 1 million students in California public schools with this challenging learning disability.

“I know firsthand how critically important early detection, planning and improving education services is to our students through California. I am dyslexic. I understand the struggles – but also the successes – that can be realized with strong public-school and family support."...

read more

Solar Eclipse Provides Excellent Opportunity to for Hands-On Lessons in the Classroom

By Carrie Spector - Rep: August 21, 2017

August 21st marks the first time in nearly a century that a total solar eclipse will span the entire United States.

“For most of us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jonathan Osborne, Kamalachari Professor of Science Education at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). “For young children, it’s also a great stimulus to their curiosity.”

The event, Osborne said, prompts many kids to question why the universe works the way it does: Are the moon and the sun really the same size? Why isn’t everyone on Earth seeing this at the same time? How can we predict so accurately when it’s going to happen?

“Questions like this drive science,” said Osborne, whose research includes investigating how to help students use evidence to argue scientific concepts...

read more

CSU to Drop Algebra Requirement for Non-Science, Math Majors in 2018

By Emily DeRuy, San Jose Mercury News - Rep: August 7, 2017

If you’re one of those students who dreads math – especially algebra – you’ll soon get a bit of a break at the California State University system.

For years, intermediate algebra had been a prerequisite for the system’s general math classes, meaning even students who weren’t majoring in math or science related fields had to complete the course before they could complete their math requirement. Beginning in the fall of 2018, students whose majors aren’t math or science heavy will be able to fulfill their math requirements without slogging through intermediate algebra first – part of a larger effort to increase graduation rates.

“What that means for students is they have more choices,” said Christine Mallon, CSU’s associate vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development...

read more